Liberia: Abu Kamara ‘Confident of Rerun’, Withdraws Appeal to Supreme Court
Monrovia – What seemingly looked like a redux of 2017 Presidential elections was averted Saturday, August 24, after a party in the Montserrado County’s District #15 by-election dispute pulled the plug on an appeal to the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Abu Kamara’s decision to abandon his appeal to the high court has now set the stage for the National Elections Commission to decide the new date for the conduct of the re-run of 20 polling places.
Earlier, it looked like Liberia’s most populous county was headed for a long haul after the NEC’s Board of Commissioners affirmed a previous decision by its hearing officer, who had ruled that there should be a re-run.
Five of the seven-member Board of Commissioners of the NEC on August 22, 2019 affirmed the ruling of the its independent Hearing Chamber to rerun 20 of the 94 polling places.
The decision by NEC, which has a quasi-judicial power, stemmed from a complaint filed by Candidate Telia Urey of the All Liberia Party, who is backed by three other leading opposition parties – Unity Party, Liberty Party and Alternative National Congress.
But Kamara rejected the NEC’s decision, which was followed by series of election violence in the heavily contested district.
On August 23 he wrote the International Law group, LLC – the law firm that has been representing his legal interest in the case – that he was discontinuing any “legal process” with the Supreme Court.
“The Coalition for Democratic Change and I kindly request we withdraw the appeal and abandon the legal process with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia; and proceed with the re-run as announced by the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission,” Mr. Kamara wrote.
And in its communication titled “Withdrawal of Notice of Appeal” sent to the NEC, the law firm wrote on behalf of Mr. Kamara: “We are pleased to notify you that our client has elected not to seek a review of the August 22, 2019 ruling of the Board of Commissioners in the case above. Hence, with our client’s permission, we herewith submit the attached written instructions to form part of the record.”
2017 Redux Averted
It is unclear what prompted the quick reverse in decision by Kamara and the ruling party’s decision, but observers say it would alleviate the growing fear of political instability similar to the situation of the 2017 run-off.
In 2017, there was a protracted legal tussle between the Liberty and Unity Party on one hand and the NEC, on the other. The two parties contended that electoral fraud had occurred and said it had the propensity of annulling the entire first round result of the presidential election.
But before the Supreme Court rejected the parties’ contentions, concerns about Constitutional crisis and uncertainty of a smooth political transition heightened.
Similarly, the District #15 by-election stalemate was already generating concerns about election violence after Ms. Urey was attacked on August 17. That came after a previous violence at the close of campaigning in the district.
Before the August 17’s incident, there was also a volatile stone-throwing incident at the NEC headquarters in Sinkor when tension brewed between supporters of Kamara and Urey.
With Kamara now expressing “confidence in the re-run,” many Liberians following the situation say it might ease the growing political tension and set the stage for the climax for the political race.
NEC to Announce Re-Run Date
On Sunday, August 25 the NEC said it will “shortly announce a date for the conduct of the rerun of the election in the 20 polling places following the withdrawal of the Notice of Appeal”.
In a press release, NEC disclosed that Kamara “has withdrawn the Notice of Appeal”.
“This move has given the Commission the legal right to conduct the rerun of the election in the disputed Precincts (20 Polling places) in the District,” NEC said in the release. “Meanwhile, as the Commission promptly prepares to conduct the rerun shortly, it is urging all parties, candidates, and supporters to avoid violence and conduct themselves in accordance with laws. NEC says it will work closely with all relevant institutions, especially the Liberia National Police for the smooth conduct of the rerun”.